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Vital: Our ticking timebomb; IGNORE YOUR BODY CLOCK AT YOUR PERIL,SAY THE EXPERTS.NOT ONLY DOES IT REGULATE WHEN YOU WAKE AND WHEN YOU SLEEP IT CAN HAVE A PROFOUND AFFECT ON YOUR HEALTH.

Byline: By Elaine Hunter WE'VE all heard of the body clock - our inner time machine that determines whether we're morning larks or night owls. And while this information may be interesting, scientists are now claiming that it could be more important than just wondering whether you're a morning person or not. In fact, it could save your life. For instance, did you know that women who work the night shift are 40 per cent more likely to get breast cancer than women who don't? And that the risk is 60 per cent if the women have been working frequent night shifts for more than three years? Chronobiologists - body clock scientists - believe that if we really tried to work out how our bodies ticked by listening to them, we would be healthier and happier. 'Hidden deep within our brain we have a body clock,' says Dr Jim Waterhouse, a psychologist and author of Keeping in Time with your Body Clock (Oxford University Press, pounds 9.99). 'Its activities help to determine when we wake up in the morning and when we go to sleep at night. If we are awake, it increases our ability to perform mental and physical tasks, it alters our body temperature and how cold we feel and it affects our digestive system too.' He claims it also affects our hormones, heart and blood pressure and even those times when we are most likely to have an asthma attack. It's been more than three decades since the discovery of the body's internal clock, a sliver of the brain that regulates vital rhythmic functions such as heart rate, blood pressure and hormone production. But only in the past few years have scientists begun to seriously challenge the medical community to recognise the importance of body time. Once considered an emerging field, chronotherapy - diagnosis and treatment based on the body's biological rhythms - is now used to treat a range of ailments, from sleep disorders to depression, and even, in some cases, cancer. 'Our body clock is responsible for enabling us to fit into an environment that is dominated by the 24-hour rhythm produced by sunlight falling upon the Earth,' Dr Waterhouse says. 'But the body clock can go wrong or be tampered with by our modern lifestyle - our body clock is important in jet-lag, the malaise of shift work and in some forms of insomnia.' And even if you don't believe everything you are told by experts, you have to admit that we have all felt the affects of sleep deprivation when our body clocks have been forced to work out of sync, such as coming off a night shift or nursing our new-born infant. An awareness of how our bodies tick, ebb and flow is, of course, particularly important for women. We already have a cyclical monthly event as part of our clock, after all. Chronobiologists believe that unlike our ancestors, who rose with the sun and slept when night fell, most of us are not in tune with our body's rhythms Lynne Lamberg, co-author of The Body Clock Guide to Better Health, says: 'In our urban existence, with all the electric light and enticing activities at every hour of the day, it's easy for us to lose the sense of ourselves as creatures designed to function in keeping with the rhythms of the planet. 'We may bend the rules of our body clock, but Mother Nature is tough, and we will eventually pay the price.' In a related study, doctors at the Institute of Oncology in Milan timed the surgical treatment of more than 1200 pre-menopausal women with breast cancer. Of those patients who had surgery in the week after ovulation, 76 per cent were tumour-free after five years, compared with 63 per cent of those patients who had surgery earlier in their menstrual cycle. The results have led some experts to conclude that breast cancer surgery is most effective in the second half of women's cycle.

'We may bend the rules of our body clock, but Mother Nature is tough and we will eventually pay the price'

LARK OR OWL?

1. What time would you choose to get up if you were free to plan your day?

A 5-6am

B 6.30-7.30am

C 7.30-10am

D 10-11am

E 11-12noon

2. When do you feel at your most alert?

A 8-10am

B 11-1pm

C 3-5pm

D 7-9pm

3. What time would you choose to go to bed?

A. 8-10pm

B. 9-10.15pm

C. 10.15-midnight

D. midnight-1.45am

E. 1.45am-3am

4. A friend asks you to go jogging between 7 and 8am; how do you feel at this time?

A On good form

B On reasonable form

C Difficult

D Very difficult

5. You have some physical work to do. What is the best time for you to do it?

A 8-10am

B 11-1pm

C 3-5pm

D 7-9pm

6. You have to go to bed at 11pm. How do you feel?

A Not tired

B A little tired

C Fairly tired

D Very tired

7. When you have been up for half an hour, how do you feel?

A Very tired

B fairly tired

C Fairly refreshed

D Very refreshed

8. At what time of day do you feel at your best?

A 8-10.30am

B 11-1pm

C 3 pm-5pm

D 7-9pm

9. Another friend suggests jogging at 10pm. How do you feel?

A On good form

B On reasonable form

C Difficult

D Very difficult

To help find out how our clocks work, you must determine whether you're a lark or an owl. Do you spring out of bed in the morning, ready for the new day or do you like to linger late into the early hours? Try this test and find out.

NOW ADD UP YOUR SCORES

Question 1

A = 1

B = 2

C = 3

D = 4

E = 5

Question 2

A = 1

B = 2

C = 3

D = 4

Question 3

A = 1

B = 2

C = 3

D = 4

E = 5

Question 4

A = 1

B = 2

C = 3

D = 4

Question 5

A = 1

B = 2

C = 3

D = 4

Question 6

A = 4

B = 3

C = 2

D = 1

Question 7

A = 4

B = 3

C = 2

D = 1

Question 8

A = 1

B = 2

C = 3

D = 4

Question 9

A = 4

B = 3

C = 2

D = 1

THE RESULTS

Interpreting your score, which can range from 9 to 38.

9-15 = a lark;

16-20 = moderate lark

21-26 = an intermediate type

27-31 = moderate owl

32-38 = an owl

TAKE OUR TEST

Our ticking

timebomb

IGNORE YOUR BODY CLOCK AT YOUR PERIL, SAY THE EXPERTS. NOT ONLY DOES IT REGULATE WHEN YOU WAKE AND WHEN YOU SLEEP IT CAN HAVE A PROFOUND AFFECT ON YOUR HEALTH
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 7, 2005
Words:1123
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